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Wife awarded judgment on wrongful death claim

Where a company failed to answer certain allegations in the third amended complaint, or TAC, did not attempt to file an answer until the plaintiff moved for default judgment and then submitted an incomplete answer, the plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings on the wrongful death claim was granted.


This memorandum opinion and order is written to explain the court’s order issued on Oct. 31, 2022, in which it granted Patricia Mullinex’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. The court arrives at this determination following defendant’s pattern of failing to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including defendant’s (a) failure to answer the TAC; (b) failure to properly respond to plaintiff’s motion for default judgment; (c) failure to properly answer the TAC and (d) attempt to nullify the court’s Oct. 24, 2022, order by filing a motion to amend its answer to the TAC.


Plaintiff’s TAC sets out a wrongful death cause of action based on theories of negligence and strict liability. Defendant’s answer does not admit or deny large portions of the TAC as required by the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. The first paragraph of defendant’s answer purports to incorporate its answer and affirmative defenses to the non-operative second amended complaint, but this is not a proper use of the incorporation privilege. Even construing this part of the answer liberally, a blanket denial in a defendant’s answer is insufficient to defeat a plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings.

Importantly defendant does not contest the fact that its answer does not properly deny the paragraphs that state the underlying facts of plaintiff’s wrongful death claim. Defendant argues that its prior answer to the second amended complaint gave plaintiff sufficient notice of its defenses, creating live issues of material facts. This argument is not persuasive for reasons stated in the court’s recent orders.

Finally, defendant argues that the 12(c) motion should be denied because the court may grant defendant leave to file a corrected answer to the TAC that includes additional responses and addresses to plaintiff’s claims. However as discussed in the court’s Oct. 28, 2022, order it would be futile and prejudicial to grant defendant’s request to amend its answer but deny plaintiff’s 12(c) motion given the procedural history of this case.

Judgment on the pleadings is warranted when there is no genuine dispute of material facts and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Based on defendant’s admissions, the court finds that no genuine dispute remains to the material facts supporting the wrongful death claim. Allegations of damages, however, are specifically exempted from Rule 8 and may not be admitted by a failure to deny. In any event defendant’s answer contests the amount of damages that plaintiff is entitled to recover. Therefore, this action will proceed to trial to determine what damages plaintiff may recover.

Plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings granted.

Mullinex v. John Crane Inc., Case No. 4:18-cv-33, Nov. 8, 2022. EDVA at Newport News (Jackson). VLW 022-3-504. 8 pp.

VLW 022-3-504